The role of the garden shed as a retreat is nothing new. Allotment sheds up and down the country have long provided an escape for everyone from major generals and nuclear physicists to plumbers.
However, as space increasingly becomes at a premium and houses shrink in size, many garden sheds are being reinvented as Man-sheds or She-sheds, refuges from the outside world where DIY, navel contemplation or propagating can be pursued in peace: there may even be refreshments stashed in a mini fridge, books and a comfy chair sneaked into a corner.
These are usually no-go areas for spouses and children alike, and tend to fall into two camps – the meticulously methodical haven that is kept in apple-pie order, or a cluttered hideaway jam-packed with a jumble of belongings collected over a lifetime.
Below, you'll find our favorite garden shed ideas – plus tons of design advice and inspiration.
- She shed ideas – 10 ways to turn a humble shed into a relaxing garden retreat
What is a garden shed?
Garden sheds have come a long way since the standard brown 6ft by 4ft box-like structure, with all manners or shapes, sizes and materials now available. Your options will depend on the size of your garden, what you need to store and how you intend to use it.
Whatever the real purpose, most garden sheds are to some degree used to securely store tools and chemicals.
Ranging from oversized cupboards to substantial structures, sheds are essentially utilitarian-looking and need to be thoughtfully incorporated into the garden so as not to jar with the natural environment.
Often they can be tucked away at the side of a house, or being screening at the back of a plot, but wherever assembled, they should be surrounded by enough space to gain access for an annual preservative treatment.
1. Consider careful placement
Sheds are best placed on a solid base built from either a paving slabs or concrete – laying the landscaping at least a metre wider on several sides creates useful working space.
On larger structures, fitting gutters directs rainwater away from the building, either on a soakaway or water butt. And don’t neglect the paths leading to and fro – they take a lot of wear, so should be laid in gravel, paving or concrete, and kept clear of floppy planting that could trip up the unwary.
Pathways should also be wide enough for wheelbarrows, lawn rollers and lawnmowers. Take a look at our garden path ideas for advice on how to get it right.
- See: Garden wall ideas – create a boundary or define a space with a vertical structure
2. Paint your garden shed or summerhouse
When it comes to the exterior finish, sheds can be painted in a specific color to co-ordinate with other wooden structures in the garden.
In this case, the shed will stand out, so it’s worth spending a little more for an attractive design, possibly even a summerhouse that combines storage with providing somewhere to sit. Alternatively, wooden sheds can be simply coated with a clear preservative, and allowed to weather down to a natural silver shade that sits easily alongside foliage.
- See: Conservatory ideas – wonderful ways to boost light and space
3. Weatherproof your garden shed
The garden shed can take a lot of weathering over the years. Rain, wind and even sunshine can impact the structure, leaving it looking weathered and tired.
All too often updating it can fall to the end of a long to-do list. However, now is the perfect time to stop neglecting your garden building and give it the care it deserves. So, if you garden shed is looking a little worse for wear, it might be a good time to improve the waterproofing.
'If your shed is constantly leaking and the contents are damp then it is definitely worth updating the waterproofing sealant you have used, advises the specialists at Onduline. 'If the wood has begun to rot, then these pieces should be replaced immediately as this can damage the overall structure.'
4. Turn your shed into a luxe cabin
Do you fancy turning your garden shed into a delightful summer cabin? Enjoying the simple life couldn’t be easier with this relaxed camp-style bedroom.
If you are planning to turn your shed into a liveable space, be sure to check that you provide adequate heating, electricity and plumbing, if necessary. And most importantly, that your building is structurally sound.
Here, a built-in bed with useful storage beneath is dressed in warm shades of plum, russet and ochre for a cozy feel, while stripes add to the laid-back holiday look.
5. Install a home office within your garden shed
It might often be creaky, cold and dressed with cobwebs, but a simple garden shed can be a powerhouse of creativity. Cut off from the domesticity, these four walls provide a space in which to think, to potter or to immerse oneself in a task in blissful isolation. Unsurprisingly, recent studies suggest that sheds can help people to live longer by reducing their stress levels.
So, if working from home has become the norm for you, why not take it (almost) out of doors by installing a permanent work station in your very own garden shed. Roald Dahl, Virginia Woolf and Dylan Thomas all found inspiration in their humble accommodation.
You can find more home office ideas in our dedicated feature.
- See: Garden room ideas – innovative schemes that are bright and inviting
6. Discover the joy of a neatly organized shed
A well-stocked potting shed with neatly hung, clean tools is a great source of satisfaction and serenity. These functional hideaways radiate a sense of steadfast, quietly rewarding purpose. They are extensions of the home without the normal house rules.
What's more, it has long been widely reported that artist Barbara Hepworth found creative inspiration while holed up in the garden shed – so, keeping your space in order may be more important than you even realise.
7. Use a garden shed for storage
All storage buildings – sheds and greenhouses – need sufficient area around them as access and workspace.
Potting sheds or greenhouses are essential for storing tools, compost, seeds and bulbs – and are best positioned close to where you garden, so that everything is on hand. However, bike storage, barbecues, sun loungers, and outside games, etc, are best sited close to the patio and house.
8. Learn how to de-clutter
Sheds and garages need just as much focus as inside spaces – they aren’t the end of the line for boxes of sorted clutter – things have to leave, eventually.
Empty first, then start dealing with the junk. The only way to make the most of your shed is to take everything out, clean and fit a shelving solution.
Plastic tubs are perfect for sheds. Use them to store everything from those lesser-used kitchen gadgets to ‘best’ crockery. Be sure to label and sort through everything regularly.
Also, make the most of wall space with shelving and hooks. If belongings have a space to go – like Christmas decorations and deckchairs – they’ll be less likely to end up in a heap in the middle ever again.
9. Invest in a room of your own
Who doesn’t lust after a ‘she-shed’? It’s the perfect way of extending your home into your outdoor space and creating an additional room.
‘More people are maximizing the space available in their gardens by using sheds as a way of extending their home,’ says The Posh Shed Company MD Richard Frost. ‘We’ve designed sheds that have been used for crafts, sewing and yoga, as well as outdoor offices. Or some people simply want a place to escape to, where they can read and relax while enjoying some me-time.’
It’s the design, decoration and furnishing that sets 'she-sheds' apart from the common garden variety. Time to channel your inner interior designer and create the shed of your dreams.
10. Create a rural retreat
Shepherd's huts have surged in popularity in the last decade, so the likelihood of finding an old, vintage one is increasingly slender. But you can't deny they make an exceptional garden feature, and you may decide it's worth spending a tidy sum on a new one – especially if you have a large plot of land on which to build one of these charming structures.
- See: Garden bar ideas – the best way to entertain al fresco
Is it cheaper to build my own shed?
While building your own shed may be cheaper in the short-term, unless you are a professional builder by trade, it is not recommended that you undertake this responsibility.
Sheds, arbours and pergolas need to be properly installed and whereas small, light structures can be sited on firm, levelled gravel or paving, more substantial structures require a concrete base laid above a well-compacted hardcore sub-base.
For buildings that will serve to give a higher level of comfort, for instance for guests to sleep in, electricity or even a water supply may be installed, permission will need to be sought from your local planning authority.
However, building your own shed can be a challenge, but it's a very rewarding project – if you know how.
How can I make my shed look nice?
There are many ways to make a shed look nice. Firstly, consider painting your garden shed, either to blend in to its surroundings, or to completely stand out from the crowd.
Alternatively, consider using climbing plants to beautifully blend your garden shed into the existing scenery.
Be sure to keep up with the regular maintenance – cleaning, weatherproofing, insulation and replacing ironmongery are key to its longevity.
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